By Debbie Gregory.
In a January 7th press release, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared that his city has ended homelessness among its Veterans. The statement touted the city, nicknamed “The Big Easy” as the first major city in the nation to end Veteran homelessness.
The mayor, his administration and the claim instantly drew criticism from people both in and outside of New Orleans. Some were quick to point out that both Phoenix and Salt Lake City have already claimed an end to Veteran homelessness in their cities. Other critics were eager to find any and all homeless people in New Orleans to ascertain if any of them were Veterans living on the streets.
But while critics were quick to jump to conclusions, the most important thing to keep in mind is what Mayor Landrieu and his city were able to accomplish.
Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama challenged mayors throughout the U.S. to make a commitment to end homelessness among America’s Veterans by the end of 2015. So far, 312 mayors, six governors, and 71 other county and city officials from across the United States have accepted the first lady’s challenge. Mayor Landrieu was among them.
In early 2014, the Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted its annual National Point in Time Survey of Homelessness. At that time, the survey identified 193 homeless Veterans combined in the parishes of Orleans and Jefferson. The Landrieu administration coordinated with local nonprofit organizations, homeless service providers, active duty service members, Veterans, and federal, state and local agencies. Their goal was to provide housing for all homeless Veterans. Ultimately, the city and its alliance managed to provide housing for 227 homeless Veterans.
This is truly a remarkable and commendable feat that New Orleans accomplished. This should be celebrated and emulated around the nation. Critics can dig up whatever nay-saying they want, but Landrieu accomplished what Mrs. Obama’s challenge was intended to do; provide a tremendous amount of local support for homeless Veterans.
One thing that both Mayor Landrieu and his critics do agree on, whether the claim is accurate or not, is that combating Veteran homeless is not a battle one simply wins and stops fighting. It will be an ongoing campaign that will take on-going commitment and resources.
It is our hope that elected officials and community leaders all across our country will take up the fight against Veteran homelessness. The men and women who put all of their best efforts into this battle should be proud, and they have the right to brag about their accomplishments.
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Military Connection: New Battle of New Orleans: Veteran Homelessness: By Debbie Gregory